vendredi 30 avril 2010

Benny Spellman - Fortune Teller

The deep bass voice of New Orleans R&B vocalist Benny Spellman boomed through loud and clear on many early 60's Allen Toussaint productions, but he enjoyed a major hit of his own in 1962, "Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette)." Spellman spent some time with Huey "Piano" Smith & The Clowns before signing with Minit, where Toussaint utilized his deep pipes to full advantage as a backing vocalist behind Ernie K-Doe on "Mother-In-Law" and countless others. The Rolling Stones covered "Fortune Teller," the flip side of this hit. Spellman recorded through much of the '60s, his "Word Game" turning up on Atlantic in 1965, before he took a day gig as a beer salesman.

01 - Fortune Teller
02 - Stickin' Witcha Baby
03 - In The Night
04 - Every Now And Then
05 - 'Tain't It The Truth
06 - Life Is Too Short
07 - You Don't Love Me No More
08 - Talk About Love
09 - I Feel Good
10 - Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette)
11 - I'll Never Leave You
12 - It's For You
13 - Word Game
14 - You Got To Get It
15 - Anywhere You Go
16 - 10-4 (Calling All Cars)

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Mickey Baker - Rock With A Sock

This 28-track collection rounds up sessions guitar player Mickey Baker cut as a leader between 1952-1957 for such labels as Savoy, Rainbow, Groove, MGM, and Vik. Baker is best-known for his duets with Sylvia Robinson as Mickey & Sylvia as well as his incredibly prolific and influential session work. As a leader, Baker tried various styles from rock & roll ("I'm Tired") to mambo ("Guitar Mambo") to acoustic blues ("Love Me Baby") to acoustic doo wop ("Oh, Happy Day") to tough blues ("Down to the Bottom," "You Better Heed My Warning") to jump blues ("Rock With a Sock," which features some hot sax by Warren Luckey) to jazz ("Chloe," "Ghost of a Chance"), trying his hand at instrumentals and vocals and always delivering high-energy, high-quality music. There are no lost classics hidden away here, but it is nice to hear Baker get a chance to step out on his own and rock. Baker's guitar playing is almost always energetic and unrestrained and his laconic vocals are a lot of fun. He also shows a more serious side on a date for Vik in 1957. The four tracks (all of which were never issued) are calm jazz ballads that Baker plays gently and with a great deal of finesse and feeling, and they show he could have had a career as a jazz player if he had wanted.

As a bonus, Bear Family adds five previously unreleased Mickey & Sylvia tracks to the end of the set. Four of the tracks are typical smooth and poppy Mickey & Sylvia fare, but "Can't Get You on the Phone" displays a slightly harder musical edge to go with their usual lighthearted lyrics and delivery. It is almost a shame that they included these tracks, as they take some of the focus off of Mickey Baker's solo work, but the tracks are of such a high quality that it doesn't detract from the listening pleasure one bit. Anyone with an interest in discovering the versatility of one of the great craftsmen and founding fathers of rock & roll should check out this CD. You'll soon be singing the praises of Mickey Baker to anyone who will listen. 

01 - Guitar Mambo
02 - Riverboat
03 - Love Me Baby
04 - Oh Happy Day
05 - Where Is My Honey
06 - I'm Tired
07 - Stranger Blues
08 - I Wish I Knew
09 - Down To The Bottom
10 - You Better Heed My Warning
11 - Midnight Hours
12 - Please Tell Me
13 - Shake Walkin'
14 - Greasy Spoon
15 - Bandstand Stomp (Ho Ho Ho)
16 - Rock With A Sock
17 - Old Devil Moon
18 - Guitarambo
19 - Spinnin' Rock Boogie
20 - Chloe
21 - Ghost Of A Chance
22 - Man I Love
23 - Bobi
24 - Hello Stranger - Mickey & Sylvia
25 - My Love - Mickey & Sylvia
26 - Woe, Woe Is Me - Mickey & Sylvia
27 - Can't Get You On The Phone - Mickey & Sylvia
28 - I'll Always Want You Near - Mickey & Sylvia

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mercredi 28 avril 2010

Honky Tonk! The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals

With Bill Doggett and Freddy King alone, the King/Federal labels had two of the most popular and significant instrumental R&B/rock hitmakers of the 1950s and early '60s. Both are represented by their most popular instrumental tracks (four by Doggett, three by King) here. But this compilation, assembling 24 instrumentals from 1948-1964, also demonstrates that King/Federal was quite active in the instrumental R&B field beyond its work with those two artists. In many of the 24 cuts (particularly the earliest ones), the label mined R&B/jazz crossover sounds with a smoky barroom flavor. Giving the sleeve a casual glance, most would assume that the material for the most part flopped upon release, but actually a few of these were big (if virtually forgotten) R&B hits, like Todd Rhodes' "Blues for the Red Boy" (from 1948), Earl Bostic's effervescent "Flamingo" (from 1951), and Sonny Thompson's shuffling "Long Gone" (1948), a groundbreaker in that it not only sat atop the R&B charts for a long time but also made the pop Top 30. Beyond that, things do get rather generic, even though there are some relatively big names like Mickey Baker and King Curtis (heard backing Washboard Bill) and future James Brown sideman Jimmy Nolen (who shines on blues guitar on the 1956 single "After Hours"/"Strollin' With Nolen"). There's no denying, however, that Doggett's massive and classic "Honky Tonk" (parts one and two are both here) and King's snazzy blues guitar instrumentals are easily the most worthwhile items on board. There is, however, one other great cut: Johnny "Guitar" Watson's astonishingly futuristic 1954 workout "Space Guitar" (released under the billing Young John Watson), one of the great relatively obscure classics of the mid-'50s.

01 - Honky Tonk, Pt. 1 - Bill Doggett
02 - Honky Tonk, Pt. 2 - Bill Doggett
03 - Hide Away - Freddie King
04 - Blues for the Red Boy - Todd Rhodes
05 - Flamingo - Earl Bostic & His Orchestra
06 - Long Gone, Pt. 1 - Sonny Thompson
07 - Long Gone, Pt. 2 - Sonny Thompson
09 - Big Push - Cal Green
10 - After Hours - Jimmy Nolen
11 - Slow Walk - Bill Doggett
12 - San-Ho-Zay - Freddie King
13 - Washboard Story - Mickey Baker, King Curtis, Washboard Bill
14 - Early in the Morning Blues - Johnny Otis, Johnny "Guitar" Watson
15 - Green's Blues - Cal Green
16 - Gainesville - Roy Gaines
17 - Strollin' With Nolen - Jimmy Nolen
18 - In the Morning - Mickey Baker, King Curtis, Washboard Bill
19 - Space Guitar - Johnny "Guitar" Watson
20 - Louisiana Hop - Pete "Guitar" Lewis
21 - River Boat Dock - Mickey Baker, King Curtis, Washboard Bill
22 - Let's Rock (Let's Surf Awhile) - Johnny Otis, Johnny "Guitar" Watson
23 - Stumble - Freddie King
24 - Hold It - Bill Doggett

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Jimmy Dean - Big Bad John

This was the album that established Jimmy Dean as a hitmaker in the early '60s, switching from mainly gospel material to country/pop. Along with his biggest hit, "Big Bad John," the other ten tracks include "Sixteen Tons" and the light country swing of "Night Train to Memphis" and "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette."

01 - Big Bad John
02 - I Won't Go Huntin' With You Jake (But I'll Go Chasin' Wimmin)
03 - Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)
04 - Dear Ivan
05 - To A Sleeping Beauty
06 - Cajun Queen
07 - P.T. 109
08 - Walk On Boy
09 - Little Bitty Big John
10 - Steel Men
11 - Little Black Book
12 - Please Pass The Biscuits
13 - Gonna Raise A Ruckus Tonight
14 - Day That Changed The World
15 - Gotta Travel On
16 - Sixteen Tons
17 - Oklahoma Bill
18 - Night Train To Memphis
19 - Make The Waterwheel Roll
20 - Lonesome Road
21 - Grasshopper Mac Clain
22 - Old Pappy's New Banjo
23 - You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You
24 - Cajun Joe
25 - Nobody
26 - Kentucky Means Paradise

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mardi 13 avril 2010

Gino Washington - Love Bandit

In the early '60s, the growing crossover success of Berry Gordy's Tamla/Motown empire encouraged a lot of young Detroit singers, musicians, and hopeful entrepreneurs to explore the record business. There's a seemingly endless supply of Motor City soul (and rock) music from the era still being hunted down and sorted out to this day by collectors and discographers, from better-known small labels such as Golden World and Ric-Tic to one-off custom jobs.
One of those youths drawn to get the bug was Gino Washington, who launched his career with "I'm a Coward" in 1962 on legendarily obscure Detroit label Correc-Tone. His second release made enough noise locally to get picked up nationally by Wand, though the military draft would come calling before stardom did. Washington managed to do some recording during furloughs and put out a few singles during his service time -- and many, many more afterwards -- though his early commercial momentum was never regained.
His discography at Soulful Kinda Music lists a dizzying array of obscure releases continuing right into the 1980s, though few probably made it much beyond the city limits at the time. For those of us outside Detroit who aren't likely to find many of his original singles these days (or can't afford them), Washington's career has been ably documented by the inveterate record collectors over at Norton Records. Back about a decade or so ago came a "hits" collection, Out of This World, and following in 2002 was a second, more intriguing collection, Love Bandit.
While the first comp may contain the cream and be a better starting point for casual listeners, the second LP is a goldmine for rare soul collectors and serious Washington fans. After starting off with a couple tracks which could have made the defacto hits collection -- "Hey I'm a Love Bandit" and "Puppet on a String," the flip of his first single -- the album takes a quick left turn into collectordom.
Drawing on unreleased material from one-of-a-kind acetates, more tracks from his post-Army days and some production work for others, the Love Bandit album recalls the eclectic nature of some of the comps devoted to another prolific Detroit soul man, Andre Williams, both in the often raw sound quality and the diversity of styles on display. There's harder funk numbers such as "You Should Have Been True" or the James Brown turned sideways of Nathaniel Mayer's "I Don't Want No Bald Headed Woman Telling Me What to Do." There's the sweet, if raw, group soul of "Like My Baby" and "Rat Race," two sets of lyrics which use the same backing track! And there's the classic early-Motownesque sound of Pearl Jones' "My Man," and the Northern Soul classic "I Really Love You" by The Tomangoes. As usual with Norton releases, there's also well-written and informative liner notes telling the story for those who love the details.
Anyone who's a serious fan of '60s Detroit soul looking for something different would be well served by checking out both of Norton's reissues of Gino Washington's recordings, which remain in print on both LP and CD. While Washington never became a star, in an odd coincidence a similarly named Indiana soul singer named Geno Washington did become a star in England in the 1960s with the Ram Jam Band, doing a high-energy revue of American soul hits of the day. A couple of the group's LPs were released here by Kapp, suffering a similar fate to Gino's records stateside ... but that's another story.
(Norton, 2002)

01 - Hey I'm A Love Bandit
02 - Puppet On A String
03 - I Gotta Move On (Previously Unreleased)
04 - 'Til The End Of Time (Previously Unreleased)
05 - You Should Have Been True (Previously Unreleased)
06 - Like My Baby
07 - Everything Is Di-Jo-Be (Previously Unreleased)
08 - My Man
09 - Please Stay
10 - I Really Love You
11 - I Don't Want No Bald Headed Woman Telling Me What To Do (Previously Unreleased)
12 - Rat Race
13 - Doing The Popcorn
14 - Singing In The Rain (Previously Unreleased)
15 - Foxy Walk

Buy it on vinyl at Norton Records!

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Jimmy Smith - Bashin': The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith

Although still a regular Blue Note artist (he would make four more albums for the company within the next year), Bashin' was organist Jimmy Smith's debut for Verve, a label that he would record extensively for during 1963-1972.
On the first half of the program (reissued in full on this CD), Smith was for the first time joined by a big band. Oliver Nelson provided the arrangements, trumpeter Joe Newman and altoist Phil Woods have a solo apiece, and "Walk on the Wild Side" became Smith's biggest hit up to that point. 
The final three numbers feature Smith's regular trio with guitarist Quentin Warren and drummer Donald Bailey swinging with soul as usual. The historical set (a bit of a turning point for Jimmy Smith's career) has its strong moments although it is not all that essential. 

01 - Walk On The Wild Side
02 - Ol' Man River
03 - In A Mellow Tone
04 - Step Right Up
05 - Beggar For The Blues
06 - Bashin'
07 - I'm An Old Cow Hand (From The Rio Grande)
08 - Bashin' (45 rpm Version)
09 - Ol' Man River (45 rpm Version)

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James Booker - Gonzo: More Than All The 45s

Numerous discs are available featuring the eccentric and tragic New Orleans R&B pianist James Booker usually performing solo, recorded during live gigs from the 1970s and early '80s. This disc provides an amazing collection of the earliest Booker on piano and organ backed by a full band.
Booker made his recording debut in 1954 with the Imperial single "Doing the Hambone," backed with "Thinking About My Baby." During the next few years he would release equally exciting, although sporadic, singles on Chess, Ace, Peacock, and Duke, supported by some of New Orleans finest R&B musicians, including the sax section of Lee Allen, Robert Parker, and Red Tyler, drummer Earl Palmer, and bassist Frank Fields.
The 1956 Chess singles "You're Near Me" and "Heavenly Angel" find Booker paired up on doo wop vocal duets with Arthur Booker (no relation). The remaining tracks are scorching dance numbers tied in with novelty/twist themes with catchy names such as "Teenage Rock," "Gonzo" (providing a national hit), "Cool Turkey," "The Duck," "The Crown," and "Beale Street Popeye."
This is exceptional New Orleans R&B that provides an important piece of the James Booker musical puzzle... Even french singer Nino Ferrer used to dig James Booker by turning the song "Big Nick" into a lyrical version called "Les Cornichons"!

01 -  Doing The Hambone
02 - Thinking About My Baby
03 - You're Near Me
04 - Heavenly Angel
05 - Teenage Rock
06 - Gonzo
07 - Cool Turkey
08 - Smacksie
09 - Kinda Happy
10 - Tubby Part 1
11 - Tubby Part 2
12 - Cross My Heart
13 - Big Nick
14 - Beale Street Popeye
15 - Memphis Twist
16 - The Duck
17 - The Crown

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dimanche 11 avril 2010

James Booker - Junco Partner

This solo disc by arguably the most brilliant of New Orleans' resplendent pianists shows off all the edge and genius he possessed. There may be moments on other discs of slightly more inspired playing (and this is arguable), but for a whole disc this one stands far from the crowd. You can hear some of the most awe-inspiring playing here that reflects the extremely broad background that he could, and did, draw from. You can hear his classical training and the brilliance of his interpretive skills in "Black Minute Waltz." He follows this with a version of Leadbelly's "Good Night Irene," which shows off his raucous bordello style of playing and voice. The disc goes on showing off the eclectic variety of influences that make up this man's music. This disc also displays the man's prodigious composing and arranging talents. Though he was regarded as eccentric and crazy, even by New Orleans' accepting standards (he was a flamboyant, black substance abuser, and a homosexual, who spent time both in Angola State Prison and a mental institution), he was considered a musical genius and thus given a certain amount of leeway. Very informative notes by Booker himself (some insight), Joe Boyd (the producer), and George Winston on Booker and his styling. An absolute must if you like New Orleans music.

01 - Black Minute Waltz
02 - Goodnight Irene
03 - Pixie
04 - On The Sunny Side Of The Street
05 - Make A Better World
06 - Junco Partner
07 - Put Out The Light
08 - Medley: Blues Minuet/Until The Real Thing Comes Along/Baby Won't You
09 - Pop's Dilemma
10 - I'll Be Seeing You

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